As I write this, commercial whaling (under the false premise of scientific whaling) is going on in Antarctic waters. Roger Payne calls this, “as egregious a misuse of science—the field I love—as I have ever seen.” This year three RV Odyssey Operation Toxic Gulf crewmembers (our 2013 Gulf of Mexico campaign) are there to try and stop it. Hillary Watson, Eliza Muirhead and Erwin Vermeulen are on board the Sea Shepherd fleet as it confronts Japanese whalers. When these three came to the Odyssey to work last summer they were already veterans of Sea Shepherd’s campaigns around the world. Now they’ve left the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico for the harsh conditions of the Southern Ocean.
The news broke this week that the Sea Shepherd fleet – the Bob Barker, Steve Irwin and Sam Simon had found the Japanese whaling fleet, but not before they had harvested four minke whales, three of which were on the deck of the factory ship, and one that had evidently already been processed. As we are collaborating with the Sea Shepherd fleet collecting sightings and other data in Antarctica, Roger Payne has been in touch with Eliza Muirhead and identified the sex of the whales lying on the deck of the Japanese ship. From left to right in the photo they are male, female and the far right whale we think but cannot confirm is also female. Males have two genital slits while females have one, in the case of Minke whales the females can grow to be a lot larger than the males, which is what suggest to us that the far right animal is female.
We will be thinking of the safety and well-being of our friends and everyone working in that hostile environment during this campaign.